The Russia coach Guus Hiddink will manage Chelsea until the end of the season, the Premier League club confirmed today. The Dutchman, 62, will meet his new players later this week ahead of Saturday's FA Cup match at Watford. He replaces Luiz Felipe Scolari, who was fired on Monday after just six months in charge. Hiddink will remain as coach of the Russian national side. "The club would like to take this opportunity to thank the Russian Football Union for their understanding and co-operation," Chelsea said in a statement.
Hiddink is currently in Turkey with Russia. "We are in a great position and there will be no damage for the Russian national team," Hiddink said. "I will be focused now and in the future on the Russian national team." It is likely Hiddink will only be a spectator on Saturday, and will then be in charge for the following weekend's Premier League match at Aston Villa. The current assistant manager Ray Wilkins is coaching the team on an interim basis.
Before the official announcement, Hiddink said that he was ready to take the Chelsea job out of solidarity with the club's owner Roman Abramovich, who is the financial backer of the Russian national team. "It's a favour for a friend. Abramovich does so much for Russian football that I wanted to give something back. He called me personally. "I can do it because we (Russia) are only playing two matches in April and one in June, but the English league is finished then."
Hiddink hasn't ruled out staying at Chelsea permanently. "There are two scenarios," he said. "Either they say: 'Go back to the East' or it all goes well, and then ... but that is not ideal." The AC Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti is considered the favourite to take over on a permanent basis next summer. "If the position will be open in July then I think he might consider it," the Milan director Umberto Gandini said. "He did already have a chance to consider it when he was approached last summer."
Scolari was fired following a string of poor results left Chelsea fourth in the league - nine points behind the leaders Manchester United. Russia have two World Cup qualifying games over the course of the rest of the English league season - at home to Azerbaijan on March 28 and away to Liechtenstein four days later. Those dates should not conflict with Chelsea's league games, and the qualifiers are games Russia should win comfortably as they chases Germany for the top spot in Group 4. Only the group winner is guaranteed to qualify for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, with the runner-up then chasing a play-off spot.
"The national team is undoubtedly a priority for the coach. There is no talking about it," the Russian Football Union president Vitaly Mutko said. "We are strictly following the contract terms. He will continue to be the chief coach of the national (team). "It doesn't influence the situation in Russia in any way. It's a common practice for the coach to come here when the team is being trained for the games, on the days of the games to support it. Such practice will continue."
Hiddink won domestic and European club titles with PSV Eindhoven and, at international level, led the Netherlands to the 1998 World Cup semi-finals, South Korea to the same stage four years later and took underdogs Australia to the second round in 2006. At Euro 2008, he guided Russia to the semi-finals. *AP